It's been a good week for the GEICO Caveman, known to some as Pau Gasol. (Bonus points: Can you tell them apart?)
Not only was he named to the 3rd-Team All NBA, put his 21 points and 18 boards, and total domination of Luis Scola in game 7, helped the Lakers finally put down the pesky Rockets. Gasol was also an All-Star this year.
Not bad for a guy who for many years, had the "potential" monkey on his back. His time in Memphis--where his Grizzlies got swept a couple of times in the playoffs, he missed a season after being injured in international competition, and his heart was routinely questioned after he signed a max deal in 2004 but failed to lead the Grizzlies to the promised land--is important to consider and understand.
Some of the criticisms against Gasol--a guy who is now an eight-year veteran of the league--are frequently leveled against OUR current power forward. Not tough enough. Doesn't play D. Second-rate player--good enough to be a starter but not a star. Disappears. Obviously, some of the complaints don't apply to LMA, as he hasn't (yet) signed a max deal--but some do.
Which is kinda funny when you consider that LaMarcus generally does very well head-to-head against el cavernícola.
So what is the difference between Gasol now--and Gasol a few years ago?
* Better teammates.
LMA today has better teammates than Gasol ever enjoyed while on the Mississippi. But experience is the big separator between the two. Talent? I doubt it--I expect Aldridge to surpass Gasol in a couple years.
But it is important to draw lessons from the career of Pau Gasol--it hasn't always been smooth sailing for the Spaniard.
Basketball, after all, isn't something which is so easy that even a caveman can do it.